How many times in our life are we given the opportunity to start over? How many of us would actually take that chance? Whether we need a monetary, academic, or emotional change, most of us would be too apprehensive for a complete life upheaval. It takes a very special type of person to be able to do this; to be able to move into a country of unknown, to make a new family, to start a business, to learn a new language, and in the midst of all this change able to keep ties transnationally.
What is the special quality that allows some people to make this change? After speaking to several salon owners in East Somerville, that differential value seems to be in their “wanting”. Their language is consistently is laced with words of improvement, change, wanting more, expansion, development, and progress. Never satisfied, there seems to be always the next step in mind – the next employee to hire, the new chair to purchase, the next client to please.
Moving to a new country must have caused a break between the person and the conceptual category that was their previous life. Their previous category, whether it was employee or student or mother or wife or farmer, is split wide open with the change. Now category-less, the person becomes a student of English and the new culture, owner and employee of their new salon, as well as keeping their father or mother and husband or wife roles. This exploding of the confines of society categories provides the space to want more. There is space to learn a new culture other than your own, to make more money than before, to try a new business, to meet a new spouse; to start a new life.
There is a definite change in the narrator, during an interview, when I ask about coming to America from their home country. The moment becomes charged with the most subtle type of excited electricity as their eyes usually warm and forget the apprehension and formalness of the interview process. It is possible to detect a sense of pride, constructed from their disappointments and achievements, in their voice as they speak about when they “came to America”.
My name is Caroline Kokulis. I am a senior here at Tufts University and am majoring in Anthropology. I am from Simsbury, Connecticut where I live with my mother, father, younger sister, and younger brother. I grew up in a great kid-friendly neighborhood and went to a private high school is Simsbury. Not until coming to Boston and Tufts University did I experience true diversity. Currently, I am living off-campus is Somerville.
I became an Anthropology major as soon as I sat though one lecture of Biological Anthropology. I was amazed at the complicated way our bodies manage to work in various environments through a series of compromises; a system that is by no means perfect, but great at adapting for function. After more physical and medical anthropology classes, it became clear to me that it was not just our biological bodies that had this ability to evolve and compromise. Our cultural, personal, and social selves were very competent at adapting too.
I signed up for this course because of two recent experiences: one was in Copenhagen, Denmark and one right here in Boston. While I studied abroad in Denmark, I worked with Immigrant Asylum centers around the city of Copenhagen. Immigration in Denmark is a particularly sensitive issue since they are just now experiencing huge migrations for the first time. Denmark is also very much an island culture and is a very close-knit community. This is in part due to their economic system of social services; they have very high taxes ,but very vast government funded services. The main worry is the immigrant will come and take advantage of the government’s system, while not providing as much back into the system. For these reasons, and the difficultness of the Danish language, give immigrants a disadvantage. I worked with a group of Middle Eastern immigrants who wanted to publish a newspaper to get their own voices out their into the Danish community. I wanted to see how the immigrants felt in Somerville, my local area, and how our government is working with or against them.
I also signed up for this course to attain some experience in community-based research. This summer I worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. I was a researcher in the Gastroenterology department. I was in charge of recruiting patients to take part in a study trying to determine the genetic causes/marker of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I acquired valuable experience in talking to patients, reading and explaining the Informed Consent Form, and developing a good relationship with the patients and doctors. While I enjoyed clinical research, I also wanted to gain some community-based skills as well.
In addition to learning about the immigrants here in Somerville and learning how to conduct community-based work, I hope to feel like I had given back to the community after this course. As a Tufts student I will have lived here for 4 years, and like most students, barely touch the Somerville culture beyond Davis Square. This course is a perfect opportunity to learn about the rest of Somerville and hopefully help those already living there.